Brussels Monday 19 June 1815News is just coming in of a major battle between the English and French which has taken place in the countryside south of Brussels. The battle site centred on Mont-Saint-Jean near the village of Waterloo.Since his escape from Elba earlier in the year and his astonishing overland march through France to Paris, the Emperor Napoleon, has once again threatened the peace of Europe. He fielded an army of some 72,000 soldiers, among them his battle-hardened old Guards. The Emperor could be seen on his distinctive white mare, Desirée, inspecting his troops before the battle was commenced, and at intervals throughout the battle galloping across the field of slaughter.(Click images below to view larger versions)The English and Dutch-Belgian forces were led by Commander-in-Chief Arthur Wellesley, created Duke of Wellington last year (May 1814). Dubliners will fondly remember the Duke’s late father, Lord Mornington, a noble gentleman well known in Dublin society and a gifted musician. Many will have followed the Duke’s career in the Peninsular Wars and more recently in diplomatic service.Just before 11.30 local time on Sunday 18th the French guns sounded and the Emperor’s brother, Jerome, made a brave fight at the Château d’Hougoumont. The main body of French troops went into battle singing. The Scots Greys, led out to the sound of bagpipes, made a valiant but doomed attack on the French positions on the plateau of La Belle Alliance. The French released wave after wave of cavalry attacks until the key position, the farm at La Haie Sainte, was captured by General Ney’s forces. . . By evening of that fateful day the battle hung in the balance. The Prussian army commanded by Marshall Prince Blücher turned the tide of the battle. A second corps commanded by General Ziethen arrived and gave the allied forces renewed resolve to press on. The Emperor conceded the loss and retreated to Charleroi.The losses were terrific: 25,000 French killed and wounded, as well as 15,000 of Wellington’s army and 7,000 Prussian troops. Over 16,000 French prisoners were taken. Wellington declared the battle ‘the nearest-run thing you ever saw’. What now for Europe? It looks as if the redoubtable Emperor will have to abdicate and perhaps we will see the return of King Louis XVIII.Read more of the action at Dublin City Library & Archive Reading Room. Read The Freeman's Journal and The Morning Intelligencer for daily reports.
William Butler Yeats, known to friends and family as Willie, was born in Sandymount Avenue, Dublin, on 13 June 1865. He was the eldest son of John Butler Yeats, portrait painter, and his wife Susan Pollexfen, whose family came from County Sligo. The family moved to London when Willie was a baby and remained there until 1880, but he spent his summers with his mother’s family in Sligo. When the family returned to Dublin he attended the High School in Harcourt Street. He originally studied art at the Metropolitan School of Art and the Royal Hibernian Academy School, but later decided to devote himself to literature, especially poetry and drama.Left below: William Butler Yeats (click all images to enlarge) . . The Yeats family moved back to London in 1887, but by this time Willie had already decided that his writing should celebrate Ireland’s heroic past. In 1891 he founded the Irish Literary Society of London, and the following year in Dublin he was one of the founders of the National Literary Society. The Society’s aim was to encourage the study and appreciation of Ireland’s literature, folklore and legends. In 1899 he founded the Irish Literary Theatre, with Lady Augusta Gregory and Edward Martyn, this evolved into the Abbey Theatre in 1904.His first publication, Mosada: a dramatic poem, published in 1886, is held in the Colin Smythe Yeats Collection at Dublin City Library & Archive. This does not have an Irish theme, but a series of poems and plays over the next few years demonstrate his interest in the celebration of Ireland’s past. In 1889 he published The wanderings of Oisin, a long poem based on Irish mythology, in 1892 the poetic play The Countess Cathleen, and in 1893 his first volume of folk stories, The Celtic twilight. The range of his writings is wide, from poetry and plays to folk tales, prose works and three volumes of autobiography, but it is as a poet that his name is chiefly associated. . . Yeats was considered the greatest poet of his day and his worldwide reputation has endured. He was awarded honorary degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast in 1922, and he was appointed a senator in the new Irish Free State senate from 1922 to 1928. In 1923 he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Read and enjoy his work at Dublin City Library & Archive.
Tragedy off the south coast – Sir Hugh Lane one of the casualties
Dublin, Monday, 10 May 1915. Following the tragic loss of RMS Lusitania, on Friday afternoon 7 May, off the south coast of Ireland near the Old Head of Kinsale, in which 1,198 passengers and crew were drowned, it is reported that Sir Hugh Lane, benefactor to this city, is among the casualties. The ship, en route from New York to Liverpool, with civilian passengers, seems to have been torpedoed by a German U-Boat. It is also reported that passengers were warned of the potential dangers before travelling. Bodies of the victims have been taken to Queenstown, County Cork, for identification and burial, but the body of Sir Hugh has not been recovered, much to the grief of his family and wide circle of friends. Sir Hugh was the nephew of Lady Augusta Gregory, one of the leading lights of our new Irish National Theatre Company at the Abbey Theatre. Aged just 40, Sir Hugh had established an international reputation as an art collector, and was knighted for his services to art. He had travelled to the United States earlier in the year as part of his art business. In his will he is reported to have bequeathed a substantial collection of 39 French Impressionist paintings to Dublin city. Readers who remember the fine exhibition held at the Municipal Gallery in Harcourt Street, a few years ago (in 1908), will vouch for the value and beauty of the collection.The death of this young man is a great loss to our city, but his legacy of art works will be his memorial, to be appreciated by future citizens for generations to come.Read all about it in the Reading Room at Dublin City Library & Archive, or online at any Dublin city branch library.
Favourite elephants at the Zoological Gardens Dublin
The Dublin Zoological Garden was established by the Dublin Zoological Society, under the patronage of the Lord Lieutenant, and opened to the public on 1st September 1831. The site was in the Phoenix Park, near the Vice Regal Lodge, the Lord Lieutenant’s residence, now Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President of Ireland. It was situated to the north of the smaller of two lakes, it later expanded to the south of the lake, and in the 20th century it was extended to take in the area around the larger lake also.The Zoological Garden was entered by an ornate gate house and members of the public paid sixpence to enter. In the announcement for its opening in The Freeman's Journal on 31st August 1831, visitors were asked to leave their walking sticks and umbrellas at the gate, and to keep children from approaching too close to the animals.Many of the original animals were sent as gifts from the Zoological Society of London. In November 1836 The Freeman’s Journal reported that the Marquis of Waterford presented several valuable animals to the Zoo which he had imported from Africa and America.As exotic animals were expensive to purchase, some were hired for a limited time. In this way the first elephant to appear in the Zoo was hired and exhibited for a limited period in 1835. It was a 10 year old male Indian elephant, later engraved for an article in The Dublin Penny Journal on 29 August 1835. The following year a female elephant was given as a gift from London Zoo, she remained in Dublin until her death in 1842.Elephants have continued to be among the most beloved animals in the Zoo. In the 1950s taking a ride on the back of Sarah the elephant was the highlight of any visit to the Zoo. Sarah and her keeper, Jimmy Kenny, were household names in Dublin.The baby elephant Komali arrived from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1950, and she was an instant hit with children. They were allowed to feed her with carrots, and sometimes to ride on her back for photographs, but she was too young to carry a group of children. These photographs from the early 1950s are from the Aloysius Kane Photographic Collection.To read more about the history of Dublin Zoo and the animals who lived there see a range of books in the libraries: Elephant books |
If ever you go - Katherine Tynan 'Sheep and lambs'
'Sheep and lambs', this charming poem always cheers me up because spring is my favourite time of year, and Easter is my favourite festival, and when I read this poem, or hear it being sung or recited, it brings to my mind a time of beauty, hope and renewal.It also transports me back to a sunlit classroom, the day before I was to go home for my Easter holidays, when one of my teachers read this poem to the class. It was the first time I had ever heard it and so, for me, it will always be associated with thoughts of home, family and childhood Easters.Sir Hugh Robertson, the Scottish composer and leading choral master, wrote the choral work ‘All in the April evening’ for mixed voice choir, using the words of Katharine Tynan.Katharine Tynan (1859-1931), the daughter of a cattle farmer, was born in Clondalkin in 1859. She played a major part in Dublin literary circles until she married Henry Albert Hinkson and moved to England. She was a close associate of W.B. Yeats, corresponded with Francis Ledwidge and was a friend of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. She lived in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, where her husband was a magistrate from 1914 until 1919.She wrote over 100 novels, five autobiographical volumes and many poetry collections. Her collected poetry was published in 1930. She died in London in 1931.
In the early 1950s (1950-1955) the English poet Philip Larkin lived in Belfast, where he was working as Librarian in Queen’s University. While there he made a number of visits to Dublin.During this time he wrote many of the poems which made up his first major collection The Less Deceived (1955). The proposed collection was rejected by several English publishers, leading Larkin to submit it to the Dublin based Dolmen Press in 1954. But they also declined to publish it. Despite this rejection and a generally negative view of Dublin, expressed on a number of occasions to friends (“I prefer Belfast to Dublin - not architecturally of course, but architecture isn’t everything.” Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, P182), he retained enough memories of the place to evoke it in a later poem ‘Dublinesque’. The poem was written in the summer of 1970 and published in his final full-length collection High Windows (1974). It describes the funeral of a woman, possibly a prostitute - at least many of the mourners are characterised as “a troop of streetwalkers” - and captures the somewhat maudlin atmosphere of the occasion with its “air of great friendliness ... And of great sadness also.”In common with several later Larkin poems the dynamic of the poem moves from an exact description of a mundane, even banal scene, to another dimension where a sort of transcendence is achieved; in this case by the fading sound of a mourner’s voice “singing/Of Kitty, or Katy,/As if the name meant once/All love, all beauty.”
Samuel Whyte founded the English Grammar School at 75 Grafton Street in 1758 and he became one of the most influential teachers of 18th-century Dublin. His plan of education was inclusive: he aimed to give the best education to both boys and girls, Catholics and Protestants. Related by marriage to Thomas Sheridan, poet and theatre manager, Whyte benefited from Sheridan’s patronage and his network of friends when he first set up his academy. Whyte put special emphasis on poetry and public speaking, his students were required to perform in a play as part of their annual examinations. His success can be measured in the careers of his students, he was the teacher of Thomas Moore, the poet, John O’Keeffe, the actor and dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist, and Robert Emmet, the patriot, renowned for the eloquence of his speech from the dock.Whyte was a poet and encouraged his students to write and recite poetry. He edited an anthology of poems, songs and epigrams called The Shamrock: or Hibernian cresses, which was published in Dublin in 1772, the title adapted from the poet Edmund Spenser. Here poetry in English and Latin was showcased. This book was published by subscription and the list shows wealthy and literary Dublin book buyers supporting his publication. The book is dedicated to Lord Viscount Townshend, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and among those who subscribed were the Duchess of Leinster, the Countess of Charlemont, Viscountess Ranelagh, senior administrators such as the Lord High Chancellor of Ireland, members of the senior clergy, and many Dubliners including Arthur Guinness.The poem Mully of Mountown, while not reaching the pinnacle of poetic expression, gives a wonderful feeling of the idyllic countryside around Mount Town, near Monkstown. By itemising the delicious natural produce we get a glimpse of the finest food available in 18th-century Dublin. The poem is dedicated to Viscountess Ranelagh.Whyte wrote The Theatre: a didactic essay in the form of a long poem, published in 1793, in which he defends his teaching methods using drama and poetry. This was edited by his son, and partner in the school, Edward Athenry Whyte. It is thanks to inspiring teachers like Samuel Whyte that young poets are encouraged and given a voice. In this month of April 2014 we have an opportunity to savour the poems of many ages, and to reconnect with earlier generations of Dubliners through song and poetry. www.dublinonecityonebook.ie
I was delighted to discover that this year's One City, One Book, If Ever You Go, A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song, includes one of my favourite poems, entitled Dublin by Louis MacNeice. This poem may seem like an odd choice, as MacNeice paints a picture of a city in decline, however, Dublin at this time, with 'her seedy elegance', (p. 8) holds a great fascination for me.Anyone with an interest in genealogy, who has used census returns or street directories such as Thoms, will immediately recognise MacNeice’s Dublin. His description of a Dublin tenement with its,…bare bones of a fanlight,over a hungry door. (p. 7)highlights the poverty and depravation of many city dwellers at this time. MacNeice was not a native of Dublin (he was born in Belfast) but he shows a great fondness for the city, and like Patrick Kavanagh (Collected Poems p.150) he romanticises the Liffey when speaks about,…the brewery tugs and the swanOn the balustrade stream (p. 7)When MacNeice wrote this poem in the 1930s Nelson’s Pillar was a famous landmark, not only with Dubliners but also with country people who used it as a meeting place. Many a first date started out there under the gaze of Admiral Nelson. At the time of writing, MacNeice could not have foreseen that O’Connell Street with,…Nelson on his pillarwatching his world collapse (p. 7)would change so dramatically. An explosion in 1966, fifty years after the Easter Rising, (Irish Independent 08/03/1966) destroyed the Pillar and Nelson lost his head, however, visitors to the Reading Room of the Dublin City Library and Archive will find that Admiral Nelson is still keeping a watchful eye on proceedings and who knows maybe romance can still blossom under his gaze.
If ever you should go in search of a song or a poem it is incredible for such a small nation how rich and diverse and consistently good Irish output has been and thus, it is fitting that 2014’s Dublin: One City, One Book title is devoted to celebrating that rich heritage. Available in all Public Libraries and good book shops it is called If Ever You Go – A Map of Dublin in Poetry & Song after the poem by Patrick Kavanagh.From Dean Swift to W.B. Yeats to J.M. Synge and James Joyce and Patrick Kavanagh to Brendan Kennelly, Dermot Bolger to Eavan Boland, the variety and sensitivity of the Irish poets’ voices have inspired many even beyond our shores. Anyone who has ever heard the late Seamus Heaney reading his poetry can only ever hear his voice reciting thereafter.This quotation from Padraic Colum’s ‘Dublin Roads' could have been written for Francis Ledwidge, a staunch nationalist and poet whose sensitivity remained even as he fought in World War I which eventually, tragically claimed his life at just 29 years old.Ledwidge’s father died when he was 5 years old and consequently a young Francis was forced to look for work at just 13:When you were a lad that lacked a trade,Oh, many’s the thing you’d see on the wayFrom Kill-o’-the-Grange to Ballybrack,And from Cabinteely down into Bray,When you walked these roads the whole of the day.'In France' by Francis Ledwidge:The silence of maternal hillsIs round me in my evening dreams;And round me music-making rillsAnd mingling waves of pastoral streams.Whatever way I turn I findThe path is old unto me still.The hills of home are in my mind,And there I wander as I will.